Guidelines for a Successful Chapter
Guidelines for a Successful Chapter
by DAMA - Seattle Chapter
A chapter of DAMA International is supported by DAMA in its efforts to maintain its strength as an organization. A chapter faces continued challenges to remain a healthy organization with active membership, professional community support, and financial stability. This document provides ideas and guidelines for a chapter to use on its road to being a successful and healthy organization. It addresses several areas where a chapter can actively work to ensure its success. Those areas are: Chapter Goals, People, Leadership, Communication, Chapter Sharing, and Meetings and Events.
Chapter goals provide a framework for the activities of the chapter. Define realistic, attainable goals for the chapter with current and potential members.
Prioritize the goals of the chapter to provide a path for development of the chapters programs, education, and activities. Does the chapter want to be an organization where professionals can come to learn and explore ideas about information management, does it prefer to be a money-making organization, or does it want to provide an opportunity for people to network with other professionals in information management? Is there a blend of all of these goals that will be successful for the organization? <-p> Set a target for the number of members who participate in the organization. There will be several levels of involvement from the active leaders to those who are just on the mailing list. Determine the number of members that the organization needs to function, and actively solicit their participation.
Set a target for the financial status the organization requires to function. How much reserves should be in a bank account? What should the budget be for speakers? Can the chapter afford speakers? Is financial or administrative support available from the professional community?
The people who participate in a DAMA chapter are its lifeblood. Their needs as information management professionals and DAMA members are a focal point of the chapter's activity. Solicit the help of key information management people in the chapter's geographic area. Identify people who are chapter members and nonmembers for support. Identify who the leaders are in information management and solicit their support, attendance, and participation in the chapter activities.
Survey the local area professionals to see what they are interested in from their professional organization. What would encourage them to participate? Do they have a preference for location, time, or cost of meetings? What topics would they like to see addressed? Would they be interested in a one-day event on an emerging information management topic?
Develop chapter processes that support the membership and make their time with DAMA an efficient experience. Maintaining accurate membership files and mailing lists, streamlining meeting check-in procedures, and distributing timely meeting notices all contribute to the impact the chapter has on its members. It is especially challenging to maintain continuity in these and other processes as the leadership changes from year to year. A set of written guidelines and procedures for each board position and chapter process can smooth this transition to new leadership.
Leadership of the chapter is another key factor to its success. Strong leadership, both formal and informal, will facilitate the chapter's forward movement to its goals.
Provide well-define and understood positions on the chapter Board. A successful Board understands its role within itself and within the chapter. Board members who work together toward a common goal can lead a chapter forward. Written descriptions of each Board position and agreement on job responsibilities can ensure that the Board successfully completes its activities and meets the chapter's requirements for leadership. A kickoff meeting for the new Board at the beginning of its term is a good opportunity for clarification of job responsibilities.
Acknowledge and use informal leaders who are influential in the chapter. The informal leadership of a chapter is an excellent source of support for the formal leadership of the Board. Solicit the informal leaders' ideas for the direction the chapter should be moving in. Also solicit their support and participation in activities of the chapter.
Ongoing communication through various media allows a DAMA chapter to communicate with all of its members and potential members. It provides the opportunity for the chapter to reach the most people with minimal expense.
Distribute a chapter newsletter to communicate chapter happenings, messages from the Board, and news of other DAMA chapters and International activities. The chapter newsletter is an excellent opportunity to provide a summary of previous programs and events. It also can include notice of future programs. The newsletter is a regular means for the Board to communicate with members regarding their strategies and activities. Through the newsletter, the DAMA International newsletter excerpt and notice of other DAMA events can be distributed.
Find alternatives to publish the newsletter with minimal expense. Members will probably have software that can be used to publish a newsletter. While presentation of the newsletter is important, its purpose is to communicate, so word processing software would be sufficient. Copying costs can also be reduced by having a copy service do the minimum work, with chapter members participating in a mail party to complete the mailing activity.
As a member chapter of DAMA International, each local chapter has available assistance from other member chapters. Directories from DAMA, phones, fax and e-mail make this sharing easier to achieve.
Locate other DAMA chapters in the geographic area or region that could share activities, processes, program ideas and events. The DAMA directory of Chapter Services provides a list of each chapter and its board. A list of speakers from various DAMA chapter meetings is available on CompuServe.
Solicit process ideas from other chapters. How do they handle meeting check-in? What speaker expenses do they reimburse? Do they offer discounts to students? How have they maintained their membership participation? Solicit information handouts or mailers from other chapters. Several chapters have information sheets about the chapter available. These provide a quick view of the chapter. Ideas for newsletters and meeting notices can also be shared among chapters.
Meetings and Events
DAMA chapter meetings and special events provide an opportunity for members and guests to gather and widen their knowledge base in topics relevant to information and data resource management. Members and guests also benefit from opportunities to network with others in the same profession. Use the input from a survey of information management professionals to determine the meeting time and place. Flexibility in meeting times and locations can help meet the schedules of the members. Current DAMA chapters have mid-morning, lunch, afternoon and evening meetings. If food is served, a meeting fee may be required to cover the cost of the food and meeting location. Some chapters meet in the same location each month, while others vary their location. If the membership is spread over a large geographic area, varying the location can make the meeting more attainable for some members.
Provide a variety of topics with the programs and education at meetings and events. A variety of meeting and event content provides the opportunity to address the interests of many information management professionals. Hot topics, well-known speakers from the industry, or a slant on basic principles of data management can address the varied interests of the members. The key is to keep the membership interested and perceiving the programs and education offered by DAMA as an added feature of their day.
Provide programs that acknowledge all levels of skill within the membership. The skills of meeting and event attendees will vary from the very experienced analyst to the visitor who is exploring the concept of data resource management in an organization. Even the most technical program should be brought home to the needs and understanding of the audience. People who feel welcomed and respected for their knowledge and input will participate and attend more DAMA-sponsored activities.
Develop processes that streamline the meeting and event process and make it fun. Chapter meetings and special events are usually one of the primary exposures members have to the DAMA chapter. These activities should be efficient and well-organized. Several different methods (manual or automated) can be used to collect fees, sign up new members and provide information to members. A chapter voice mail system, administrative office, or e-mail system can facilitate efficient meeting processes for members. A phone call confirmation of meeting or event reservation lets each member know that his/her attendance is important.
Free gifts and door prizes (donated if possible to keep costs down) can also add something special to the meetings. Sharing meetings and events with other DAMA chapters or professional organizations can be beneficial. Pursue joint meetings and events with other DAMA chapters and/or professional organizations. Sharing an event is a way to expand its program opportunities, spread the event administration, and reduce the expense to the individual chapter. A joint event also provides a broader audience of participants and potential members for the chapter. With joint events, two organizations can utilize each other's strength to deliver programs and activities that will benefit both.